Desire is a tricky thing. Especially as a Believer. If we belonged to the world, we could give our desires free rein to lead us around the world like a dog dragging its master behind him. But Jesus has a better way forward for us.
Desires Of Your Heart
If you have spent any length of time in church, you have probably heard a well-meaning friend say: “God will give you the desires of your heart.” It comes from Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (ESV)
I’m not here today to get bogged down in theology and teach about taking verses out of context, however important that may be. People spend lots of energy fighting one another about whether this verse means that as you draw close to God, he changes your desires to match his. Or whether it’s about God literally giving you what you desire as long as it falls within the safe boundaries of acceptable Christian living.
This verse has alternately been my life-line and the bane of my existence throughout my walk with Jesus. Surely, if my desires are good and right, such as desiring to be married and have kids, God will give me that desire on a silver platter. Turns out, this is not the case. Yes, he may still one day grant this desire, but here I am almost 19 years into this desire and counting to tell you that my timetable has not been his timetable!
Desires As Idols
A lack of a life partner and children has been the greatest sorrow of my life, the source of the most angst in my relationship with Jesus, as well as the biggest red flag to an all-consuming idol in my life.
You probably have your own desires, right? A biological child, reconciliation in a relationship, seeing a loved one saved, being healed. You probably also cling to this verse so tightly it’s like kids’ slime that squeezes out between your fingers the tighter you grasp it. You can’t ever get a hold of it.
From experience, I know that pain, sorrow, disillusionment, trust issues, anger, bargaining, and depression are close companions to those of us who held too tightly to our desires. God “should” bring them to fruition if the correct choreographed sequence is performed to align our spirit in just the right way that pleases him. Then, jackpot!
God’s Perspective On Desire
Recently, I asked God if he cared at all about the desires of my heart, or whether as God of the universe he was a little too busy to worry with the fact that I’d been waiting (im)patiently for years. His response: “I care that your desires line up with my desires for you.”
Well, you might wonder, as I did, How do I know what your desires are for me? His reply: “You ask me.” This didn’t seem super original since I’d been asking about his plan for my life since I was a little sprout. But the question is, had I really been listening for his answer?
This time, I asked and listened. Among many things, he said this first: “I desire for you, Leanna, to be close to me.”
There is the lesson: Our desires should not create distance between us and God because of our seemingly unmet expectations. He is not an Amazon Prime fulfillment center. We don’t get our desires in 2 days after putting them in our prayer cart.
My desire for an outcome cannot outweigh my desire to follow his will and seek his will for my life. If my desire overpowers everything and causes me to stumble, doubt, and get stuck in seasons of despair, then my desire has become an idol in my life.
When Our Desires Have Overtaken Us
I found myself in this very same situation recently, and had no clue how to right the ship. I was listing severely to the port side. I’d held so tightly to my desire that I may have missed entirely the other ways he was speaking to me and calling me to step out in faith with him. The desire itself wasn’t bad. My all consuming focus on it was.
If this is the case, what should we do then?
Repent. Ask for help. (Both from God and a trusted spiritual leader.) Replace the desire with a focus on him – our true, first love and desire.
I read Psalm 73 last night, and as I got to verses 23-25, I remembered a melody I created out of this verse when I was in my early 20s.
But I still belong to you, you’re holding my right hand. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on Earth.
There it is: We desire HIM more than anything on earth. Our desire needs to come underneath and submit to Jesus. We desire Jesus more than any ‘thing’. If there is a thing that you need to lay down today that fills your mind more than Jesus does, then you might want to have a conversation with him about how you can put your desires back in order. Jesus, first. Other desires fall a distant second.
A Little Help Here, Please
Here’s a prayer if you need help getting started:
Jesus, I want to desire you more than anything on earth! I am sorry for placing my own desire ahead of seeking you first. Will you help me to desire you more than ___(the thing I hold dearest)___? Can you show me how to lay this desire at your feet and trust that you are a good God who gives wonderful gifts to his children? I am afraid if I set it down, you won’t remember and fulfill it. But …Even if you don’t meet this desire, I will love, serve, and trust you… even then.
Grief, Freedom, & Joy
You may feel grief or pain at the act of laying your desire-idol down. However, there is oh-so-much freedom to be found in letting our desires fall under God’s dominion. Then you will have more room in your heart to fill up with Jesus’ desires for you. And we can be sure those are good and will not disappoint!
One last note: He won’t forget your desire. It’s ok to pray about it, too. In Daniel 9:23, Daniel was earnestly seeking and praying to God, but it was a little while before his answer came through in the form of the angel Gabriel coming swiftly to say: “As soon as you began to pray, a word went out…”
God heard your heart’s request as soon as you began to pray. Now rest and let him decide how best to respond.
I’ll leave you with a promise God said to me, because I know his words are the same for you:
And that desire fulfilled is a recipe for Joy!
I’d love to talk with you if you want to say Hi or would like some prayer. Also, please sign up for my newsletter below, and follow me on Facebook so that I can share more encouragement with you. I’m praying grace over you today, friend!